Can You Install Apps on the iPod nano?

7th Gen. iPod nano
image credit: Apple Inc.

Installing apps from the App Store is one of the things that makes the iPhone and iPod touch so great. With those apps, you can add all kinds of features and fun to your device. But what about other Apple devices? If you own an iPod nano, you may be asking: Can you get apps for iPod nano? The answer depends on which model you have.

7th & 6th Generation iPod nano: Only Apple Apps

The most recent versions of the nano—the 7th and 6th generation models—have the most confusing situation when it comes to being able to run apps.

The operating system that runs on these models looks and acts a lot like the iOS, the operating system used on the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Add a multitouch screen and home button—on the 7th gen. model, at least—like those devices have and it's easy to assume that these iPods either should be able to run apps or already do.

But appearances are deceiving: while their software looks and acts in a similar way, these nanos do not run the iOS. Because of that, they don't support third-party apps (that is, apps created by anyone other than Apple).

The 7th and 6th generation iPod nanos come pre-installed with apps created by Apple. These include an FM radio tuner, pedometer, clock, and photo viewer. So, these nanos can obviously run apps, but as of this writing, they don't support any non-Apple apps created by third-party developers. There's also no jailbreak for these models that allows unofficial apps to be added.

In order for third-party apps to come to these models, Apple would have to release tools and guidelines to support developers creating apps. It would also need to provide some a way for users to get and install the apps, like an App Store. Given the continuing decline in the popularity of iPods (more people choose the more powerful iPhone), it's hard to imagine Apple investing the effort and money required to do this.

But who knows? If the 8th generation iPod nano runs iOS, maybe it will support apps.

5th-3rd Generation iPod nano: Games and Apps

Unlike the newer models, the 3rd, 4th, and 5th generation iPod nanos can run a limited number of third-party apps. They come with some games, too. That said, these are not iPhone apps. They are games specifically made for the nano. 

Apple included three games built into these models:

  • 4th and 5th generation: Maze, Klondike, Vortex 
  • 3rd generation: iQuiz, Klondike, Vortex

In addition to those, users could add games and study tools that were available through the iTunes Store. This was before there was an App Store. These apps generally cost US$5 or less. There was never a huge number of these apps and games, and Apple removed them from the iTunes Store in late 2011. If you bought these apps for your nano in the past, you can still use them on models that support them.

Despite Apple no longer offering nano apps, there are a few websites where you can download text-based trivia games, including iPodArcade. You may also be able to find some of the games that used to be sold through the iTunes Store on file-sharing sites.

 This isn't technically legal, but it's the only way to get those games these days.

2nd-1st Generation iPod nano: Limited Number of Games

Like the 3rd, 4th, and 5th generation models, the two original generations of the iPod nano came with a few built-in games provided by Apple. Those games were Brick, Music Quiz, Parachute, and Solitaire.

Unlike the later models, there were no games and apps available at the iTunes Store for these models.

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